Pennsylvania Girl Has Junior Iditarod Dreams
Taylor Steele has been training for months in Alaska
STERLING - If home is where your heart is, for 16-year-old Taylor Steele that’s anywhere with a dog kennel, even if that means being thousands of miles away from her friends and family.
“I have my own team at home. We don't have a lot of snow back there and it's been kind of hard to get on dog teams. I've always wanted to run the Junior Iditarod since I was little and thought it would be a cool opportunity to come up here and actually do it,” said Taylor.
She and her dad came to Alaska from their home in Pennsylvania to make her Junior Iditarod dream a reality.
“I thought she was crazy at first,” said her father Sam. “Then when I saw all the determination that she had, at home it would be 11 or 12 o'clock at night and she'd be out running around the field with a light on her head with the dogs. It wasn't just one day a week; it was every day. She has a lot of determination.”
She’s one of 13 competitors who will take on the 150-mile course to Yentna Station and back. More than half of the racers are from Alaska and Taylor knew she had to be here to benefit from the terrain of the Last Frontier.
“The trails here are definitely different than the trails back home. There are steep hills and big hills to climb and drop downs and there are really big switchbacks here. Stuff that I wasn't introduced to in Pennsylvania.”
She’s also learning from some of mushing’s best, running out of Mitch Seavey’s kennel and training with his son, Conway, who was last year’s Junior Iditarod winner.
“She's getting all this influence she wouldn't normally get, especially if she was training from PA, then you add on that the dogs. She's going to have a pretty good dog team this year,” said Conway Seavey.
While training in Alaska is already the experience of a lifetime, Taylor’s journey is far from over.
“I've always went into a race to win the race so I hope I'll actually do pretty good and I've got good dogs and the team's looking great so we have good hopes,” said Taylor.
Her father Sam says he’s glad he can be there to see his daughter reach her goal.
“I had dreams when I was a kid that I didn't get to do. So I try to help my girls with whatever they want to do as long as it's productive and sends them in the right direction,” said Sam.
Taylor hopes her three months of preparation will pay off so she can return home a Junior Iditarod champion.
The 150-mile race kicks off at Knik Lake in Wasilla at 10 a.m. on Saturday, February 23. Racers will finish at the Willow Community Center on Sunday.